I know you thought America couldn't disappoint you anymore. You've been followed in stores too many times. You've had to show your ID to prove who you are too many times. You've been stopped and frisked too many times. Told you look like a "suspect" too many times. You've received enough backwards compliments to fill every pocket you own. You've watched criminalization ravage your community for decades. You read too many "apologies" from actors, politicians, musicians, and friends. Since you were six, you've been navigating the space between "I am somebody" and "all men are created equal". And then came Ferguson.
How could we not be immune? Though we are not at all surprised and can claim no sense of shock, we still feel horrified- dishonored and disrespected as distorted images of ourselves unfold on screens. This is a disease America has refused to treat, and we feel the shivers run down our backs. Numbness overtakes us in between feelings of great sorrow, great anger, great frustration. We find ourselves trying to cry it out, shout it out, read it out, write it out, march it out, and yet it remains. Our feelings. Our emotions. Our desire to be fully human demands our emotions. Try as we might to divorce ourselves, to just not care… Our humanity refuses to let us go. Our feelings must be felt. Even when we wish we couldn't feel a thing.
For days we have been unable to turn our heads from our devices as Ferguson's demands for justice for the brutal death of Michael Brown was met with even more violence. We couldn't sleep knowing our community was standing face to face with police dogs, tear gas and tanks. We couldn't fully focus at work or at school. Between meetings and over lunch we pulled out our phones to keep up as the events unfolded. Shaking our heads in unison, we just couldn't turn away, our ancestors somehow wouldn't allow it. So we watched and we wrote. We watched and we wrote. We watched and we wrote. We watched and we wrote. We had to process our feelings, while we wrote. Defend our feelings, while we wrote. Feel our feelings, while we wrote.
But as our words came to life on the screens, we realized that having to explain our humanity was in itself dehumanizing. So we turned toward one another. Twitter shout outs, email messages, text messages- anything and everything we can do to shout above the noise, "Hey, you are not walking this alone. Hey, you are not feeling this alone. Hey, you are not writing this alone. Hey, you are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone."
Because ironically that is the danger of the work of reconciliation; far too often it feels isolating, lonely, and solitary, but you are not alone.
So go ahead and cry. Weep to your heart's content. Go ahead and shout until the immediate frustration has waned. Go ahead and write- write in words, in phrase, in the language that your heart knows. Go ahead and take a time out. You don't have to hold the line alone. Go ahead and march, sing, write, draw, dance, pray, act until justice is done.
Don't let them take away your humanity. Feel. Expect. Hope. Pray. Mourn.
Feel every emotion as it courses through your body. No apologies for feeling feelings.
Expect America to do better, churches to do better, people to do better, police to do better, politicians to do better. Your expectations of being treated as fully human is not setting the bar too high.
Hope for better, even as you prepare your children for a world that fears them. Hope for better even as you delete the hateful comment at the end of your post. Hope for better as you work. For this is what the ancestors taught us to do.
Pray. Remembering a God wrapped in flesh, executed unjustly, knows your pain.
Mourn with abandonment. There are too many tissues in the world to try to stop the tears from flowing. Mourn what is while we work for what could be. Mourn the loss of Michael, John and Eric. Mourn the loss of Renisha, Jordan, and Trayvon. Mourn the losses in your own life, for this is good and right.
Feel. Expect. Hope. Pray. Mourn. For these are things humans do, and no matter what is said. No matter how many times they call you thug or race baiter, no matter how many times they call you ungodly or unChristlike, no matter how many times they question your humanity- refuse to be dismissed.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. This (I hope) your soul knows full well.